Stewarts Elysium 3 Speyside Sherry Malt Edition

Stewarts: Elysium 3: Speyside Sherry Malt Edition (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Short lived brown head that settles to a brown dash over the main body.

Nose: Raisins. Nutmeg. Tannins. Liquorice. Charred oak. Port. Raspberries. Brandy cream. White bread rolls. Mildly astringent.

Body: Sour red wine. Tannins. Charred oak. Bitter cocoa. Cream. Slight cream cheese and chives. Blueberry. Thick. Milky coffee.

Finish: Black cherry and blackcurrants. Slightly dusty. Charred oak and charcoal touch. Raisins. Bitter red wine. Bitter cocoa. Cream cheese. Spiced grapes. White chocolate. Brown bread.

Conclusion: Back when I tried the bourbon version of this I thought it was slightly too light and needed a heavier barrel to give it some heft. Well, damn, this is a heavier barrel.

The nicely textured, creamy, body below is still present with its mild white chocolate notes, but any of the light points have been barricaded up by spicy red wine, tannins and a range of dark fruit. Exactly what the doctor ordered. Though, slightly ironically, this now almost suffers from the inverse issue – that of almost overpowering the base beer. Almost. It keeps just on the right side of the line. While not performing miracles of complexity the base beer provides an excellent thick, creamy, yet slightly dry and bread base beer to work from on the texture side; On the flavour side the sour cream, bitter cocoa and white chocolate seem to create suitable grounding notes for the barrel ageing.

And what wide ranging barrel ageing it is. There are a mix of spiced grapes, dark berries, charred oak – sweet and sour notes meet, harsh then relieving the kick. The oak influence doesn’t feel overly booming though – the drier body keeps it grounded in that cream cheese and sour dough like notes. Generally it works so the experience isn’t as sickly sweet as many big imperial stouts, and so seems less garish.

The dryness does work against it in the finish though – initially fine it does become over dry and cloying over time. A pity as this is generally a very rewarding imperial stout indeed – not one that instantly shows everything, or instantly appeals due to the dryness. One that instead rewards you time.

A challenge and a beer with some flaws, but a challenge worth taking on and drinking.

Background: I managed to get through the wax on this bottle very quickly. This makes me happy. Hard to get into waxed bottles are the bane of my beer drinking existence at the moment. I grabbed this from Independent Spirit as the bourbon aged version had been interesting but just a tad light – I wondered what the extra weight of a speyside ex-sherry barrel would do. This is bottle number 204 of 621. That is a fair small run. Drunk while listening to David Bowie – Blackstar. An absolutely haunting final album from an excellent artist.